In the summers I am an art teacher for PreK - 8th grade students. This summer I decided to take the plunge and put together a classroom comics library. It has been amazingly successful! Here is what I learned, and how you can do it, too!
Why an art classroom comics library?
Reading is important for a child’s holistic education. It’s valuable for students to have access to literacy in every subject at school. I also teach comic creation in my visual arts classes regularly, so having examples available for my students has always been a priority. A classroom library offers ownership and greater access to the books for students than I had before.
Having a reading corner is also useful for classroom management. Middle school age kids can have bad days, just like everyone can have a bad day. This summer I gave students the option to take a break and read if an activity becomes overwhelming or frustrating, which has been very successful in keeping energies calm and de-escalating situations. Having books available has also given students who finish projects before others something to do that is good for their reading education, as well as their art education.
Who is it for?
I skewed my art classroom library for middle school aged students, since the majority of the kids I see in the summer are 5th - 8th grade. They are also an audience that is used to being given novels or chapter books without images, unlike younger age groups, who have access to picture books. I feel that allowing students to view images in an art classroom is highly important, so they can see the many subjects and styles a person can draw in. Variety is so important!
I chose mainly middle-grade graphic novels, since they have prominent spines. Sprinkled in with the middle-grade titles are some superhero and mainstream collections that I felt were fun and appropriate for the age, as well as a few manga titles.
These are books from my personal collection that I have purchased over the years, or have been given to me. I mainly buy books from booksellers, but eBay is also an option to get used books. Local libraries also have book sales, so see if there are any in your area. I recommend being thoughtful with what books you purchase, being sure to read titles before offering them to students. I have a reading list of graphic novel recommendations available here.
Make your own library!
I marked each book by stamping my name in it, just in case it gets lost or mixed up with other books. I made this stamp using a customizable rubber stamp set I own (here is the set I own on the Staples website). You can also label your books by printing stickers, or good old fashioned writing your name in them!
Bookmark Making Activity
At the beginning of the summer, I used a thick Sharpie and wrote every student’s name and grade on a thick strip of paper I cut on my paper cutter. This way there was some uniformity to their names, they would be written in the right location at the top of the bookmark, and I would be able to read them. I then gave them out to students and let them decorate the bookmarks with colored pencils. This way, students have ownership over the bookmarks, and therefore the books, and get more excited about reading! I recommend colored pencils for this activity, as other coloring tools like markers or crayons may rub off on the insides of the books.
Box + Book Ends
I have my art classroom comics library on a low table in the corner of my classroom, next to my desk. I keep the majority of the books in an accessible crate, and the rest with the spines out collected in some bookends. The crate holds the books the students are currently reading, so their names on the bookmarks are legible. The spines are the books on deck, ready to be picked up!
It’s easy, fun + beneficial! Start your art classroom comics library today!